Magnetic Fields Help Anxiety
Anxiety can be a crippling disorder. When we think about the role of electric current in the body, it might not be so surprising that magnetic fields help anxiety.
Using a combination of transcranial magnetic stimulation and virtual reality, researchers have helped to reduce anxiety in people with panic disorders.
During transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a magnetic coil is placed near the head of the person receiving the treatment. The coil produces a rapidly changing magnetic field which sends magnetic pulses through the cranium into the brain. There it triggers an action potential in the neurons and the neuron transmits an impulse. Although the technique has been around for a few decades only, it is routinely used in research and diagnostics.
“We knew from previous studies that a specific region in the frontal lobe of the human brain is important for unlearning anxiety,” Martin J. Herrmann explains the work of the Würzburg scientists. He goes on to say that initial studies have shown that magnetically stimulating this brain region can improve the effectiveness of unlearning anxiety responses in the laboratory. In its recently published study, the team investigated whether this also works for treating a fear of heights.
The scientists stimulated the frontal lobe of some of the anxiety patients for about 20 minutes before entering the virtual world; the other group was only administered a pseudo stimulation. The result: “The findings demonstrate that all participants benefit considerably from the therapy in virtual reality and the positive effects of the intervention are still clearly visible even after three months,” Herrmann explains. And what is more: By stimulating the frontal lobe, the therapy response is accelerated.
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